Here I go again – writing another blog post on Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers. What can I say that I haven’t said already? Why bother?
And yet, the situation keeps getting worse and Australia’s reaction keeps getting more and more callous.
The story so far ….
Asylum seekers pose a policy dilemma
Poor and persecuted people want to come to a safe place. Should we let them come here? Compassion and UN treaties say we should. Selfishness and pragmatism say to be careful. What’s a decent Aussie to do?
Bad policy breeds evil outcomes
Australian Governments have been driven to develop harsh policies to deter asylum seekers from attempting to reach Australia by boat. This inhumane approach has led to terrible outcomes. It looks increasingly like torture.
There are realistic alternatives
Christians have been reminding themselves of the Bible’s teaching which clearly condemns the sort of actions our Government is taking. A number of actions, taken together, appear able to achieve the same policy objectives more humanely.
Love makes a way
Christians ramped up their protests, with almost all denominations protesting to the Government. Some christians began non-violent sit-ins in parliamentarians’ offices, believing that love makes a way to see the children released from detention.
Yes, Virginia, it is torture
So now the UN Committee Against Torture has conducted a review of a range of activities of the Australian Government, and has been particularly critical of our asylum seeker policies.
The Committee report drew attention to “harsh conditions” at offshore detention centres which affected children, “overcrowding, inadequate healthcare; and even allegations of sexual abuse and ill-treatment”. The Torture Committee said inhumane conditions and long periods of detention “creates serious physical and mental pain and suffering”, and recommended use of “non-custodial measures” and speeding up processing.
The Committee was also critical of Australia returning some asylum seekers to their home country where they were likely to be tortured.
The Government has shrugged off the report. It claims that its policy is humane because it is stopping the boats from arriving and therefore preventing deaths at sea.
However critics (including Greg Lake, a former Director of the Nauru detention centre who resigned due to the ethical issues) say that the Government is deliberately making conditions in detention worse than what they experienced back home as a deterrent, and there are other, more humane, ways to reduce the arrival of boats.
We used to be the good guys (or so we thought)
I was brought up to believe that the British (which we Aussies considered ourselves to be back then) always played fair and fought fair. We would never resort to torture, even in warfare.
So it is sobering to reflect on these findings, and to ponder whether our Government, on our behalf, would ever condone active and deliberate torture. I would once have thought not, but seeing the US cross that line during the so-called “war on terror” makes it seem possible here.
Selling our souls?
For me, the bottom line is this.
Torture, or gross mistreatment which has a similar effect, can never be justified, no matter how inconvenient the situation is. If we would use such inhumane approaches here, what would we be capable of if our lives were at stake in a war?
I don’t think I have ever, in 69 years as an Australian, been as ashamed of my country as now.
What would Jesus do?
Even more galling is the fact that both the Prime Minister Tony Abbott (who once trained to be a priest) and the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison claim to be followers of Jesus. How they can feel these are policies Jesus would approve of is beyond me.
As my friend Eva has said, referencing James 1:27: “Tony Abbot has lost the ability stand up for what is right, because he has forgotten what that actually is. He has become ‘polluted by the world’ and the opinions of those around him have become more important than compassion. …. He has lost the ability to act justly and to love mercy”.
Even scarier is the stern warning from Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46:
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
Let’s do something!
I have become informed by listening to Greg Lake and hearing asylum-seekers’ stories. I have written twice to Scott Morrison, signed a petition and attended a prayer vigil outside his office.
But I have to do more. I will write again, and I am considering becoming involved in Love Makes a Way.
If you are an Aussie and agree this situation is intolerable, will you take some action too?
Photo: Chilout. Because I am writing a post supporting the removal of children from detention, I assume Chilout would be happy for me to use a photo from their website.